Tourney time for Hawkeye softball

BY JON LINDER | MAY 15, 2009 7:28 AM

With the regular season, spring semester, and a shortened finals week in the rearview mirror, the Iowa softball team has its sights set on a 4 p.m. matchup with Auburn today in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Hawkeyes will be joined by host Georgia Tech and Boston in the Atlanta regional, along with Auburn. Georgia Tech is the No. 14 seed in the tournament; it won the ACC regular-season title as well as an ACC Tournament title.

“At this point, it changes,” Iowa senior Erin Riemersma said. “We want to be playing as well as we possibly can, but if we do happen to lose, we can still bounce back and win this regional.”

While Georgia Tech is the favorite in Atlanta, Iowa is focused on today’s game with Auburn. The Tigers (29-27, 9-19) received an at-large bid after finishing fourth in the SEC West.

Senior Myesha Finney leads Auburn at the plate, batting .324 and contributing a team-high seven home runs and 24 RBIs. Anna Thompson has emerged as the go-to pitcher in the circle this season for the Tigers. The junior has a 2.16 ERA and 255 strikeouts.

Pending the outcome of today’s game, the Hawkeyes will face either Georgia Tech or Boston on Saturday. Today’s winners are slated to face off Saturday at noon, with the losers meeting at 2:30 p.m. in the first elimination game. The regional final will be played at noon on May 17.

After finishing the season with a four-game winning streak at home, the Hawkeyes had an odd half week of practice before heading south on Wednesday night. As was the case for most students, the Hawkeyes had a hectic finals week, struggling to organize practice and rescheduling exams to accommodate travel.

“We’ve practiced in sessions a little bit because of finals,” Riemersma said. “[Thursday was] the NCAA practice day, so we [had] two hours or so to practice on Georgia Tech’s field and get a feel for where we’ll be playing this weekend.”

Iowa is led by five All-Big Ten performers and a large senior class, headlined by first team all-conference pitcher Brittany Weil. The senior from Garden Grove, Calif., led the Big Ten in opposing batting average (.146) and ranked second in ERA (1.29) and strikeouts (328) in conference games.
Senior Colleen McGlaughlin also earned a first-team nod after leading the Hawkeyes in home runs (10), RBIs (49), and batting average (.360). Junior Katie Brown was named to the second team, and freshmen Liz Watkins and Katie Keim earned third-team honors.

Weil has high hopes for this postseason, but she admits there are things that can be tweaked as the weekend progresses.

“Every day, there are little things we can improve on, even in the course of a game,” she said. “We’re in a very good spot right now as a team. … We just need to take care of our games this weekend.”

There is an outside chance that Iowa will get an opportunity to play a few more games at home at Pearl Field this postseason. If Iowa upsets Georgia Tech in Atlanta and No. 3 national seed Washington takes care of business in its regional at Amherst, Mass., it is likely that Pearl Field would become a second-round venue for Super Regionals.

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